Member blog: A game changing Irish orchestra

Making Music member group the Irish Video Game Orchestra (IVGO) is being recognised for its innovative work in the community

This year the IVGO was a finalist in the Europe-wide Amateo Award, which recognises an outstanding arts project that adds value for its community. The IVGO brings the music of video games into local performance spaces – set up in 2015, it has rapidly grown into a group of over 40 adult musicians. The group is based in Belfast in Northern Ireland and aims to bridge community divides by encouraging cross-community membership.

“We are inclusive – we don’t care where you come from, we don’t care what you believe, we just care that you want to make music.”
– David Bennington, Assistant Conductor

The orchestra plays the scores from well-loved, classic games such as Super Mario, Civilisation, The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy. Some of the musicians are gamers but not all – and it’s not a prerequisite to joining. All ages and musical abilities are welcome and the musicians come with a variety of daytime occupations, from programmers and teachers to journalists and retirees. The orchestra provides a safe space for players to learn and improve their skills.

But the orchestra isn’t just about developing the players – it’s about the audience members too.

“It introduces kids to the orchestra in a really engaging way and it’s really rewarding to see their reactions when we play music from a favourite game of theirs.”
– Sorcha Carlin, Assistant Musical Director of the IVGO

Amateo is the European Network for Active Participation in Cultural Activities, made up of 45 member organisations from 19 countries. Amateo aims to empower individuals to freely express themselves, and promotes cultural cohesion, social inclusion and active citizenship. The Amateo Award recognises projects that encompass these values.

The Amateo jury loved the way the IVGO combined orchestral performance and games culture in an innovative way, engaging young people. The work bridging communities in Belfast, a divided city in the past, was also felt to be very valuable, especially with Brexit on the horizon.

Find out more about the Awards on the Amateo website.

Read about the rewards of getting your group out of its comfort zone by touring or entering award schemes

Discover and listen to the Irish Video Game Orchestra on their website, or follow them on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.